Jason Plato claimed his first pole position of the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after setting a blistering pace at Oulton Park during qualifying.
MG KX Momentum locked out the front row as Sam Tordoff left it late to set his own quickest lap – nearly half a second behind his team-mate. Plato completed fewer laps than any other driver – just four – as the two-time champion pitted early, confident that his pace would not be matched. That decision proved prudent as Plato comfortably held on to score his second successive Oulton Park pole position, having done so for the MG squad last season. Such has been the development of the MG6 over the last 12 months that today’s benchmark of 1:26.130s was more than seven tenths of a second quicker than his 2012 lap record.
Gordon Shedden responded well after having his early quickest lap excluded for exceeding the track limits – producing a similar effort late on to get himself back up to third on the grid for tomorrow’s opener. His Honda Yuasa Racing team-mate Matt Neal endured a difficult session and could only manage eighth after a spin at Knickerbrook scuppered what looked to be his fastest lap. Championship leader Neal, with maximum ballast on board his Honda Civic, will now have to attempt to wrestle his car up the order tomorrow afternoon.
Speedworks Motorsport driver Dave Newsham had a beaming smile on his face when the chequered flag waved as a last ditch dash pushed him from ninth on the grid up to fourth – the best qualifying result of the season so far for the local team.
Such has been the form of Andrew Jordan that the Pirtek Racing driver will be disappointed to only take fifth. The 24-year-old’s driving style again wowed the fans, however, holding on to a stunning slide through Cascades as he pushed hard to improve on his position.
Frank Wrathall and Colin Turkington performed well in their Toyota Avenis and BMW 125i M Sport respectively. Wrathall set his quickest lap in the early running, whilst Turkington completed his in the final ten minutes, both separated by just 0.059s at the finish in sixth and seventh.
Adam Morgan’s Ciceley Racing Toyota and Tom Onslow-Cole’s PPCGB/Kraftwerk VW Passat rounded out the top ten, ahead of a rather sombre Mat Jackson who was expecting more from the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus. Such was the competitiveness of the session, however, that second position through to Jackson in 11th were covered by less than half a second.
Ollie Jackson’s Speedworks Toyota will start 12th for the first race tomorrow ahead of encouraging efforts from Daniel Welch and Jack Goff, who will both occupy the seventh row in the Proton Gen-2 and Vauxhall Insignia respectively.
The duel between Lea Wood and Liam Griffin for Jack Sears Trophy honours went in favour of the Vauxhall Vectra driver, with Griffin’s Ford Focus less than two tenths behind. Debutant Aaron Mason performed admirably, setting the third fastest time of the S2000 runners in his AmDTuning.com VW Golf.
Jason Plato said: “It’s been an historic day actually – it’s the first ever all-MG KX Momentum Racing front row. Both Sam and myself and everybody in the team are really pleased with that. I was quietly confident after free practice that we had the pace in the car. Our expectations are for wins. When the planets align and things are going well you’ve got to maximise it. We appear to have a bit of pace over the opposition, so we’ve got to make hay while the sun shines!”
Sam Tordoff said: “We achieved what we set out to do in that session. My first run was a bit messy and I didn’t get the best out of the car, and on the second tyre run the track was a little bit slower so in hindsight I think I could have been a little closer to Jason’s time if I’d done it on the first run. Oulton Park is an MG-friendly circuit, but you never know how the tyres will last over the race distance. The plan tomorrow is just to get away at the front and not crash into Jason!”
Gordon Shedden said: “The car felt good and I don’t think there was a great deal more left in the tank. Looking forward I think quite clearly we can’t match the straight line speed of the MGs, but we’ve got great balance and as the temperature rises it will hopefully play into the hands of the Civic a little more, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Dave Newsham said: “It’s great to get this result in the team’s back yard. Coming into this round we made a lot of progress in the car, it’s much more to my liking now. We knew we’d moved forward but we didn’t know how far it would be in comparison to the other cars, so this is great. This is where we should be. I thought maybe Jordan would have got ahead of us, so to be the fastest of the Independents is brilliant. I was still surprised when I crossed the line though!”
Lea Wood said: “We were really quick in FP1, dropped off in FP2 but that was down to a broken shock absorber so we sorted that out and were really quick again in qualifying. We put a pretty aggressive set-up on the car and it felt really good. I think tomorrow it’s going to be down to me and Liam Griffin. He’s a good driver so we’ve just got to keep pushing!”